- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Players who leave teams often feel at liberty to provide insights on their former organizations. Larry Hughes is a case in point.

Hughes, who left the Washington Wizards last summer for a five-year contract worth nearly $70 million with the Cleveland Cavaliers, shed light on some interesting subjects yesterday ranging from whether Gilbert Arenas tried to have Kwame Brown benched in the playoffs to what it would have taken to keep him in Washington.

Hughes, who scored nine points in 23 minutes last night to help lead the Cavaliers to a 116-94 victory over the Wizards before 12,106 at MCI Center in the preseason opener for both teams, said there was no truth to Brown’s claim that Arenas told Wizards coach Eddie Jordan to bench Brown during the playoffs.

“Coach let your play speak for your time,” said Hughes, who was mostly booed when he touched the ball last night. “Nobody was ever singled out. Nobody was ever yanked out for making a mistake. He really let you go out there and show and prove what you could do with your play. … That’s what it really was about.”

Hughes said he heard reports about Brown, now with the Los Angeles Lakers, saying he cut practice following the Wizards’ Game 3 victory over Chicago in the opening round because he would have slapped Arenas.

“If he said it you should fess up,” Hughes said of the comment. “Be a man about it. If you didn’t say it, then something is going on. There is something there. But the good thing is that those guys are far apart. I hope Kwame can just go out there and handle his business out there. GA is going to do his thing out here.”

So, had the Wizards offered Hughes the same deal Cleveland did, would he have remained with Washington? The Wizards increased their six-year, $54 million offer to $72 million but he already had signed with the Cavaliers.

“If they had come with the last offer, I was fine with that,” Hughes said. “But I didn’t want to do the back-and-forth thing. I told the guys that before and that was my whole reason for not really talking about it much during the season. It wasn’t about trying to hit them over the head and getting all I can get. I feel like I’m worth it and I feel like I’m getting better and I’m ready to show it.”

The Wizards were mostly opposed to paying Hughes that much because they already have huge annual obligations to Arenas ($10.2 million this year) and Antawn Jamison ($13.8 million), and didn’t want to commit that much cash to perimeter players. They also were concerned about Hughes’ health. In his three seasons in Washington, Hughes never appeared in more than 67 games. Last season he played in just 61 games.

Third-year Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, said Hughes, who averaged 22 points, 6.3 assists, 4.7 assists and a league-leading 2.89 steals last season, already has helped Cleveland with his defensive tenacity.

“Larry is setting the tone for us in practice, and you can see the difference that he brings to us already,” said James, who scored 16 points last night.

Hughes had his best moment of the night just midway through the second quarter when he lofted an alley-oop pass to James, who finished with a two-handed slam dunk. Otherwise it was a pedestrian performance for Hughes.

The Wizards opened the game with a blazing first quarter en route to a 41-30 lead but sloppy play in the second half helped Cleveland cruise to a victory.

Washington, which will play six more preseason games before the start of the regular season on Nov. 2, committed 16 turnovers in the second half and finished with 26 as the Cavaliers outscored them 58-35 in the final two quarters.

“I thought we had a good rhythm to the game early with our starters in,” Jordan said. “We were disruptive and we talked on defense. But it’s the first preseason game. There is no cause for alarm or being concerned about any particular thing. We’re demanding a lot of things from them and it will come.”

Arenas and Antonio Daniels each had 13 points for the Wizards. Second-year free agent Awvee Storey had a strong game as well, finishing with a team-high 14 points. Storey shot 6-for-7 from the field.

Drew Gooden matched James with 16 points for the Cavaliers, who are coached by former Wizards assistant Mike Brown.

New Wizards forward Caron Butler did not play because of a mild groin injury.



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